Outrage growing at mentally-ill man's death at hands of HPD - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Outrage growing at mentally-ill man's death at hands of HPD

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Outrage is growing after police shot and killed an armed mental patient in southeast Houston.

Early Saturday, officers responded to a 911 call from the Healing Hands facility on Polk near Sydney.  Houston Police claim Brian Claunch was aggressive, waving an object at officers.  They claim Claunch cornered Officer Mart Marin who shot him in the head.

This is Marin's second fatal shooting.  In 2009, he shot and killed a knife-wielding man who had already killed one person and wounded another.

Arlene Kelly and another woman started Civilians Down, a support group and website for those affected by police brutality.  In 2009, an HPD officer killed Kelly's mentally-ill daughter.  Her website chronicles police misbehavior, and they get their information from HPD news releases and media reports.

"Even though I don't see any change to speak of in law enforcement, it's catharsis; it helps. I feel like I'm doing something," Kelly said.

She believes police need better training and civilian oversight.  She and others wonder if police knew Claunch had mental issues when they shot and killed him.  Did they notify HPD's Crisis Intervention Team?  Why didn't they use pepper spray or a stun gun?

HPD's Internal Affairs Division is investigating the case, but we may never know the answer, civil rights attorney Randy Kallinen said.

"All of the shooting investigations are secret, going back for many, many years," Kallinen said.  "All of the videos are secret.  In some cases, the autopsies are secret.  Basically, the Houston Police Department and the City of Houston is keeping silent so the people can't see what's going on."

HPD Chief Charles McClelland issued this statement:

"The Houston Police Department places the highest value on human life and events like these are tragic and unfortunate for everyone involved.  All Houston Police Officers receive mandatory crisis intervention training specifically dealing with persons experiencing mental crisis.  As we do in all instances of this nature, the Houston Police Department's Homicide and Internal Affairs Divisions, and the Harris County District Attorneys Office, Civil Rights Division, are investigating this incident.

"In addition, I have also asked the local office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to monitor and investigate this incident.  As I have done throughout my tenure as Police Chief, to the extent I can, the Houston Police Department will be open and transparent in all aspects of our response to this tragic event.  

"It is my desire to have everyone reserve judgment until all the facts and evidence in this investigation have been gathered."

Mayor Annise Parker is backing up McClelland.  Her office issued this statement:

"I want to express my condolences to Mr. Claunch's family and friends.  As for any comment on the circumstances, there is a process in place to determine if the officer acted appropriately.  In addition to the usual internal review, Chief McClelland has taken the additional step of asking the local office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) within the U.S. Department of Justice to monitor our investigation of this incident.  Until the facts are in place, it is premature to draw any conclusions.  I have utmost respect for the very difficult job of our Houston Police Department.  However, if there were mistakes made, I know the police chief will take appropriate action."

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